WWE and Fox Sports have officially closed a five-year deal to broadcast “SmackDown Live” on Fox Broadcasting beginning next year.
As previously reported, the deal for the popular wrestling program – which has been airing on the NBC Universal-owned USA Network – is believed to involve Fox paying $205 million per year for five years to Stamford-based WWE. The Fox version will begin airing weekly on Oct. 4, 2019.
“WWE and Fox are a perfect match,” said WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. “Moving ‘SmackDown Live’ to broadcast TV and having the ability to leverage Fox’s extensive portfolio of world-class sporting events will expand the reach of our flagship programing.”
On air for almost 20 years and nearly 1,000 episodes, “SmackDown Live” is the second-longest-running weekly episodic cable television show in U.S. primetime history, behind only WWE’s “Monday Night Raw.”
According to Nielsen, “SmackDown Live” is among the most-watched, regularly scheduled programs on primetime cable and delivers an average of 2.9 million viewers in primetime, more than any cable network in the U.S.
USA Network will continue to air WWE’s “Raw” program for a further five years. USA had contractual first right of refusal on both shows, electing to focus on the more popular “Raw,” which averages 3.6 million viewers per episode.
WWE said the new agreements will provide a sizable increase in the average annual value of the company’s U.S. distribution. WWE management anticipates that revenue from “key content agreements” including the new U.S. deals will grow to approximately $311 million in 2019 and $462 million in 2021.
“SmackDown” began its TV life in 1999 on the now-defunct UPN, moving to The CW in 2006, Fox’s MyNetworkTV in 2008, Syfy in 2010 and USA in 2016.